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I remember previously reading related articles and hearing podcast hosts recite the benefits of stomach acid, but this book has shed a bright light on how integral to digestion and overall health a low stomach pH can be.
In order to provide nutritional advice and serve clients’ needs, it is vitally important to understand how our digestion works and how nutrients are absorbed. Reading about the cascade of events that occur in natural digestion was helpful in understanding what can derail nutrient absorption and how to remedy the various problems along the way.
Digestion begins in the brain. When we think about or even look at food, the digestion process begins. Saliva is stimulated as well as gastric juices and, as we chew and swallow, food is already being broken down. When food reaches the stomach, the stomach pH is ideally lowered to a range of 1.5-3 by the activation of pepsin and release of HCl (hydrochloric acid AKA stomach acid). The purpose of such a low pH is to break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates and kill off any bad bacteria that came along with the food. If the pH is not low enough, the digestion is incomplete and pathogens are able to survive and pass into the small intestine for further proliferation.
There is a wide range of diagnoses related to low stomach acid, and I realize that “fixing” stomach pH may not always be the answer or the “cure” to these illnesses. However, it was fascinating to discover that it is possible to replace stomach acid with HCl and pepsin supplementation as long as stomach-lining damage hasn’t been too severe, which in turn can repair the cascade of digestion slowly over time.
I also noticed that links can be identified among many of the disorders related to low stomach acid and there is clearly an autoimmune connection. Diagnoses such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, MS, scleroderma and type 1 diabetes are a few examples of autoimmune diseases, and once one AI disease is established, it is likely more will follow. If we don’t try to break the cycle of immune system aggravation, then we are likely to spiral further into poor health. Many conventional doctors lean on acid suppressors and the like to block symptoms of a misidentified underlying problem- “too much acid.” Corticosteroids, proton-pump inhibitors, bronchodilators, SSRIs and more are prescribed to help people with various illnesses and symptoms. However, these symptoms may have never existed if the body’s natural digestive pathways and processes weren’t interrupted by poor diet and use of such pharmaceuticals in the first place.
We aren’t sick because of a deficiency of pharmaceuticals. We are sick partly because we (as in conventional medicine, the media, and wherever we get our health information) are misinformed about how to treat our bodies. Getting back to the source of health- nourishing foods– along with the help of supplements to support this transition, we can restore natural digestion and all the lovely gastric juices that come with it. In turn, we can improve LES (lower esophageal sphincter) function, prevent esophagitis and gastritis (inflamed esophagus and stomach), improve nutrient absorption, decrease bacterial overgrowth and leaky gut, decrease ulcer formation, and prevent stomach cancer, asthma and GERD. These are hefty but realistic goals given the right tools to heal digestion naturally, and I could not be more excited to share this information with clients and, well, everyone.
This book may not seem like the most exciting read, but the information flips what we know about stomach acid on its head, and it is SO important! If you think about it, our bodies are designed to know how to digest foods and absorb their nutrients. So why, then, so we feel the need to constantly disrupt our bodies’ natural processes with OTC or prescription medications that are just band-aids for deeper digestive issues?
Don’t get me wrong, pharmaceuticals can be lifesaving and completely necessary. But did you know that acid reducers were never meant to be prescribed long-term? They are meant to be temporarily used so the esophagus could heal from the inflammation caused by reflux, but then people began taking them long-term to manage the very acid reflux that was exacerbated by the use of the medications to begin with! All the while, perpetuating poor gut health by allowing bacteria such as h.pylori to proliferate and wreak further havoc in their intestines. FOREHEAD SMACK.
Want to know how to stop this vicious cycle and stop chronic heartburn for good?
Check out my latest post for Five Ways to Stop Heartburn Before it Starts